Max Payne 3

Initially I started playing this game under the belief that it was free roam. I'm a huge Rockstar fan and one of the main reasons for this is because they understand how to make a sandbox environment and they know how to make it incredible. So, when I found out that this was NOT a free roam game I was a little bit upset about it. 

 

The first mission was a little bit frustrating. Whilst I did want to know the story, I also wanted to play the game. The 10 minute FMV at the beginning didn't make that easy. Max is an awesome character. He had this "Breaking Bad" moment where he shaved his head and kept the beard and I must say he looks quite badass. Once you get into the game you find out that you're on a mission to protect some people from danger. Usual story line ensues! You are there to protect them from danger so they are immediately put in danger by some sort of local terrorist group.  

Your first mission on the game is a tough one. They kept the health system basically the same. Knock back a few pain killers to recover health. If you're like me, though, and decide to play this in hard mode then it does not help much. 3 shots and you're dead, usually. So, I did this Mass Effect style. I turned Max Payne into a cover based shooter! I love the new techniques in killing. When you kill the last enemy in any area the game will go into slow motion and show you a very graphic explosion from where the bullet went through the bad guy. 

Pushing through the game you learn some of the unique abilities to help you get through some of the tougher areas in the game. One I particularly like is the slow motion dive. You basically dive in slow motion and kill as many people as possible. I think my record dive is 8 seconds but I'm sure people have probably beaten that score. The integration of Rockstar's "Social Club" makes the game that little more intense as you are trying to compete with your friends scores and survive to the next checkpoint at the same time! 

The next ability is just to slow down time. Each time you kill an enemy a little bar will fill up. The more juice you got in there, the longer slow mo' will last. If the bar is full you have roughly 6-8 seconds of slow motion, which is helpful when enemies charge at you with a shotgun or AK-47, and ohhhh boy do they charge. So many times I was on the last enemy in an area and he just charged at me and got me while I was reloading.  

The game is mission based. You go from mission to mission and slowly fight your way across São Paulo, Brazil. Along the way you can pick up pieces to assemble golden versions of your weapons. Each gun requires 3 pieces and they are scattered everywhere. So not only are you fighting enemies but you are also looking in the corners of every single area and looking for weapons or clues. Clues are usually around the place as well and they just give you more information about the people you're after or the area you're in. You can also watch tv, there's something that Rockstar seem dead set on putting in every game! 

All-in-all the game is not what I expected but it still incredibly good. Whether you like dual pistol slow motion from behind cover or you just like to charge in with a shotgun and destroy rooms filled with gun-toting lunatics, this is the game for you. Rockstar brought their A-game with them and presented an awesome game. My ONLY complaint is the constant wavy screen. Every time there's a new sequence or you take pills or anything happens that's not running, shooting or reloading, it causes the screen to go wavy. Mostly for memory sequences too. The fact it is not sandbox is sad to be too because I like a game with good replay value and realistically, other than to collect the golden gun parts, this is not a replay game. This is a play it once and trade it in style game! If you can rent it for a week, I would suggest that more. Besides this I actually have no fault with the game, it's certainly an awesome game to play.

Overall Score: 8/10

- Ken Seiler

Diablo III

Diablo seems to be an appropriate name, if it is short for Diabolical. There as so many disappointing issues to this game that I feel like I just watched the end of the matrix trilogy again. I got Diablo 2 8 years ago when passing through the states and I LOVED every second of it and could forgive the occasional issue. This? Well Blizzard, we need to talk.

On launch night in American they had a total of 600 people playing, that then went up to 1000 and then the server failed. This is out of the THOUSANDS of Diablo fans who were eagerly awaiting this game for the last 10 years and pre-ordered it last year, much like myself. Unlike America we, in Ireland, did not get a midnight release. We get a midday release though (not quite, I was just late)! I got the collectors edition which, to be fair, is actually pretty damn awesome! It might possibly be the best collectors edition of anything that I have ever received! It contained a 208 page book of ALL the art from beginning to end, the soundtrack, a tiny Diablo skull and soulstone USB key which had Diablo 2 and Diablo 2 - Lord of Destruction on it but then to add to the woes of Blizzard they didn't make the USB key Mac compatible. In the new update for Mac they got rid of the ability to read certain Windows files which made that practically useless to me without hours of googling.

So upon my Midday purchase and 30 minutes to install my 15GB file I finally got my chance to try out the game! At this point I had been staying away from anything Diablo 3 related so I could forge my own opinion out of the wonderful clay they were about to present me. It turns out that the clay was actually an empty box. It turned out that the European servers were down. No matter, I'll try the American, surely they can't be.. oh.. Well, I may as well try the final server just in case. No luck. This is a problem. So I hit google like the rest of the world and found what can only be described as the fasted growing thread in the world. Pages upon pages of hate mail for Blizzard coming in by the second! Some made me laugh, some made me angry and most just made me sigh. 

You're probably wondering why this is all important to the review of the game. This is important because it took me 4 hours to finally get in to a game and I got booted after 15 minutes due to server failures. Oh, did I mention this is for single player? Yes, Blizzard have made it so that you need a constant internet connection for Single Player Diablo. So I faced the same problem America had faced almost 18 hours before and apparently still were. Globally it was such a disastrous launch which may not seem important to some, but to those who waited years for this and had their hopes so high it was a heartbreaking experience. 

Finally I managed to get in a few hours later and I did get a chance to play until I got somewhat bored of playing. The game starts out looking a little newer than Diablo 2 and slightly more advanced. Each character looks better and has His/Her own back story. Once you finally get in to playing it becomes a thing of just following the path before you, kind of like the predecessors to this game. It is a fine way to play, but I find that I am either unprepared to face the enemies before me or I am just not experienced enough by the time that I get there which makes it overly difficult to get through the game. 

The overall story seems to be fine and I love the video sequences. They are done beautifully and are incredible to watch. I also do enjoy playing the game, don't get me wrong, but with all the hassle to get in game it just seemed a little anti-climactic by the time I finally got to play. I enjoy the story, seems quite Diablo-esqe and it certainly has a very similar soundtrack, which is awesome. When I am playing I certainly know that I am playing Diablo and not something else, which is good. But so far I haven't become emotionally invested in any of the characters, even the recurring ones, and I'm having trouble finding it to be worth it. There are points where I am walking through the game and suddenly an enemy will just be standing in my face due to some minor lag, which can get kind of annoying. 

Perhaps when I get more of a chance to play it I will change my mind (in which case I will make it publicly known) but, for now, this game has really let me down. My expectations have been trampled on by my most anticipated game. I'm sad to see it happen, I was truly excited for this. It is hard to give this a high score, even though I really want to! It lost so many points just for needing an active connection to play single player. The server issues seemed stupid to me but I won't be taking points away for that as I don't think it will happen again when it is fixed, however it does lose points for needing the server at all for single player as that means I have spent a lot of money on a game that will inevitably expire once the server goes down. Blizzard, I truly hope things get better from here! 

Update: Upon having a few hours to play the game without server issues and technical problems I must say that I do enjoy it. It feels more like Diablo and less like a waste of money. With the update in enemies and the fluid game play I do enjoy it. My only flaw now is the actual mouse controls. Sometimes I find myself trying to run away but stuck in a firefight with some enemies that I know I can't beat. Also, the single player needing internet constantly is driving me a little crazy! Beyond that I genuinely love this game. Good job Blizzard. Unfortunate that you had to have so much technical issues at the start but it's fine now. I'm moving the score from a 4 to an 8. I also apologise for rating the game based on the overall trouble, it was just a hugely frustrating flaw that ruined the overall game for me. Leaving that behind us I know this will be a worthy game! 

Overall Score: 8/10

- Ken Seiler

Mass Effect 3

This review comes to you somewhat incomplete. I'm about 15 hours in. I've almost cried twice already. I don't mind admitting that. Not naming any names, there is a scene some way in that is one of the most well crafted cut sequences I've ever seen in a video game, and one of the most deftly handled character send offs I've seen in any medium, period. It's that good. I don't think it's a spoiler to say that a character will die. You're at war. The galaxy is at war. Billions are lost every hour you play. The Reapers continue their seemingly unstoppable onslaught while you, valiant Commander Shepard, desperately fly doing everything you can to stop them. But no matter what you do, you can't save them all.

This is what makes the losses of Mass Effect all the more poignant. As you look up from the surface of a moon and see a planet bathed in the continent-sized firestorms of a giant death-machine invasion, you can't help but feel the nagging doubt that not everyone is going to make it home. Your fears are later confirmed. It is in this tangible sense of loss that Bioware's scifi epic reaches its true maturity. All the strand established over three massive games all intertwine. These are the characters you know and love, the ones you NEED by your side. If you're not fighting for the countless organics across known space, you can be damn sure you're fighting for them. The war creates a sense of tangible urgency in a manner that I don't think was present in the other games of the series. In one stand out scene, one character remarks to the other how he cannot understand the lightness the Citadel residents are taking day to day life. Ever knowing, Shepard remarks that it's all a front to disguise their terror at what is really happening out there. Sure, it's a neat little narrative trick that allows Bioware to employ the usual RPG side quest tropes, but at the same time it also explores peoples reaction to a total war on this scale. It's just another facet that demonstrates the developer's singular storytelling and worldbuilding strengths. And the killer aspect: it's almost a throwaway line that many will simply miss. This is why I'm a only halfway through. I feel the need to take my time and savour every single moment I can. To live in this world, if one can indeed live with a 3D rendering of something that is not strictly speaking there.

On the gameplay front, Mass Effect follows the cover-based shooting action formula that was so well-refined between parts 2 and 3. While it generally plays second fiddle to the story, the action is meaty and fulfilling, mostly thanks to the redesigned sounds of the weapons. These now sound suitably futuristic and satisfying violent. Interspersed between the usual galleries of chest-high walls are some truly epic set pieces, including one that will no doubt stick in the minds of all who play it. Let's just say it involves a Reaper and something equally big and much angrier. The side quests, such as they are, are tied to the main story in every possible way, allowing players to flesh out the game as much as they wish. The mining mechanic has been replaced by something equally topical, which sees the Normandy recovering potential assets for the war effort as opposed to 2000 unites of palladium. Yet again, Bioware have taken one of their mechanics and have made it seemingly crucial to the conclusion of the tale they are telling.

And Mass Effect 3 is a conclusion. Like it or not, it's the end of the story as we know it. The game is the purest form of the series we know and love. It never feels like there is a moment wasted because they very rarely is. Whether it's a quiet chat where you break an asari's heart, or whether you're running for your life from a gigantic alien doom ray, Mass Effect 3 never fails to pull you into its world. If you haven't played the series up until this point, for the love of God buy the first two Mass Effects now and play all the way through. If you don't, you're missing out on one the finest if not THE finest science fiction epic of recent years.

- Jack Whelan